October 2016 newsletter

Rudd Center Recent Publications

Food and Drink Marketing for Young Children Often Contradicts Expert Advice for Promoting Healthy Eating

Most baby foods offered are nutritious, but advertised less frequently

Marketing for baby and toddler food and drinks often contradicts the advice of health professionals, using messages that may lead parents to believe that these commercial products are healthier alternatives to breastmilk or homemade food, according to a new study by the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at the University of Connecticut.

The new Baby Food FACTS report found that companies spent $77 million in 2015 to advertise infant formula, baby food, and toddler food and beverages to parents, primarily through TV, magazines, and the internet. By comparison, companies spent $98 million to advertise fruits and vegetables in 2015 – products intended for the entire U.S. population.

“Our analysis shows that marketing for baby and toddler food, infant formula, and toddler milk and nutritional supplements often contradicts expert guidance and in some cases encourages parents to feed their young children products that may not promote healthy eating habits,” said Jennifer Harris, UConn Rudd Center Director of Marketing Initiatives and the report's lead author.

The study was funded by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and presented Nov. 1 at the American Public Health Association’s 2016 Annual Meeting and Expo in Denver.

Changes in WIC Food Package Pay Off in Healthier Purchases

The healthfulness of food and beverage purchases by participants in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) increased after revisions in 2009 that were designed to improve the nutrition of low-income pregnant women, new mothers and their young children, according to a new study by the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at the University of Connecticut.

“You really can see improvements in purchasing patterns. The WIC participants are buying healthier foods overall as a result of the changes introduced in 2009,” said Tatiana Andreyeva, Director of Economic Initiatives for the UConn Rudd Center and lead author of the study.

The study, published in the October edition of Preventive Medicine, has implications for the health of low-income families and, potentially, the nation’s long-term health care costs. Every second infant born in this country is dependent on WIC, Andreyeva said. “People don’t realize how many families rely on WIC.”

Rudd Center in the News

Jennifer Harris, UConn Rudd Center Director of Marketing Initiatives and lead author of the Baby Food FACTS report, appeared on TV newscasts about the report's findings in numerous cities across the country, including Kansas City, Raleigh, Fort Myers, and Columbus (WBNS - 10 TV - CBS). Baby Food FACTS was featured in an excellent HealthDay article that was picked up by dozens of media outlets, including CBS News and U.S. News & World Report. 

UConn Today and NBC News Radio also spotlighted our new report on baby and toddler food and drinks.  

UConn Rudd Center Deputy Director Rebecca Puhl commented in an Oct. 1 article in The New York Times and was quoted in an Oct. 3 Huffington Post blog on the harm that fat-shaming can do to individuals dealing with overweight or obesity. The issue became prominent in the presidential election campaign as a result of Donald Trump's disparagement of a former Miss Universe winner who had gained weight and the candidate's remark that the hacking of Democratic National Committee emails might have been done by "somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds."

Dr. Puhl was featured in Prevention Oct. 27 in a piece on 8 Ways Doctors Pre-Judge You - And How It Hurts Your Treatment, commenting that, because of weight stigma by physicians, patients with obesity are less likely to undergo screening for breast, cervical, and colorectal cancer.

UConn Rudd Center Director of Economic Initiatives Tatiana Andreyeva's study showing that changes in WIC food packages led to healthier purchases by participants was highlighted by several media outlets, including UConn Today Oct. 5, The New York Times Oct. 6, The Huffington Post Oct. 13, and Health Medicine Network Oct. 14. “Everyone is talking about low-income households buying unhealthy food for the most part, but that’s not what we saw in our data,” Dr. Andreyeva told The Huffington Post.   

Our study on "look-alike" Smart Snacks, published in August, received a new round of visibility in October thanks to publicity efforts by the journal Childhood Obesity. "This important study highlights the confusion students and parents experience when viewing nutritionally different versions of similar food items marketed in schools versus in stores," says Childhood Obesity Editor-in-Chief Tom Baranowski, PhD, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX. "The fact that students rated the healthier versions of the snacks as equal in taste to the unhealthy versions is an important milestone for healthy snacks. Hopefully this article will lead to a national discussion about what types of foods parents, students, and citizens in general want offered in schools." Eureka Alert (AAAS), and Medical Xpress were among the outlets that carried the publisher's release.

UConn Rudd Center Director Marlene Schwartz commented in a compelling article Oct. 13 in Undark - Truth, Beauty, Science about why it's so difficult to reduce obesity: In the Fight Against Obesity, the Real Enemy Is Oversimplification. Dr. Schwartz sees hope in the next generation. “My prediction is that in the next five years you’re going to see changes in children.”

Dr. Schwartz also was quoted in an Oct. 24 Reuters article on a study showing that kids who order combination meals at fast-food restaurants are more likely to get a sugary drink, increasing calorie and sugar consumption. “We’re no longer fighting about whether children need to drink fewer sugary drinks. That’s accepted,” she told Reuters Health. “The question now is finding the best way to do that.”

An Oct. 31 Vox article on the rising sales of Halloween candy referred to a 2014 Rudd Center report.

Vermont Digger, a statewide online news site, carried an announcement Oct. 7 that funding for the Healthy Food Policy Project has been extended: National Agricultural Library, Center for Agriculture and Food Systems Extend Partnership With $750K For Healthy Food Policy Project. The UConn Rudd Center is among the partners.

What's Simmering With Our Friends

Voices for Healthy Kids 2016 Progress Report 

Voices for Healthy Kids, a joint initiative of the American Heart Association and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, issued Building a Culture of Health for All Children: 2016 Progress Report. The report highlights progress in the movement to help all children achieve a healthy weight, including policy successes and a behind-the-scenes look at efforts to improve access to healthy foods and physical activity.  

October - National Farm to School Month  

The U.S. Department of Agriculture created a video to celebrate and explain the impact of the movement. Click to watch.

News to Chew On

Associated Press
Advice For Parents On Body Image Amid Many 2016 Campaign Insults  
Civil Eats
Opposing Soda Taxes, For a Price  
CCTV Africa 
WHO calls for tax on sugary drinks to reduce obesity, diabetes  
News Channel 20 – Illinois
Soda Tax Proposed in Cook County  
Medical Xpress
Improved federal school lunch guidelines lead students to better health, study finds
The New York Times
Coke and Pepsi Give Millions to Public Health, Then Lobby Against It
HealthDay News
National School Lunch Program Serving Up Healthier Fare
Colorado Daily
Boulder voters could find tax on sugary drinks to their taste
The Washington Post
Can Cinderella and Elsa convince kids to eat vegetables?
Business Insider
A fiery new report makes a convincing case that Big Soda is the new Big Tobacco
Sentinel Source
PepsiCo steps up push to reduce reliance on sugary beverages  
New Europe
Finland introduces sugar tax
Market Watch
Coca-Cola fought regulation around the world to keep advertising to kids, according to hacked emails  
Healthier school lunches on the menu  
DMN Newswire
With weight bias prominent, National Obesity Care Week challenges healthcare providers to take action  
Conscien Health
Take 5 for National Obesity Care Week